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Calgary Stampede 2015: Is It A High-Stakes Political Rodeo?

07/03/2015 11:14 EDT | Updated 07/03/2016 05:59 EDT
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The Calgary Stampede and politics go hand-in-hand.

The leaders of all the major federal parties will be in town shaking hands as part of an "unofficial" campaign for this fall's federal election. And with the Alberta NDP win in May's provincial vote, it seems there will be a lot at stake.

Thomas Mulcair's NDP is hoping to capitalize on that victory. The party's southern Alberta organization has been minimal in the past, but 14 NDP MLAs were just elected in Calgary.

The federal Liberals are also hoping to buck the Tories from their familiar saddle in Alberta.

Kent Hehr and Darshan Kang, both former Liberal MLAs, have been running campaigns for months to try to knock off Conservative incumbents Joan Crockatt in Calgary Centre and Devinder Shory in Calgary Skyview.

NDP honeymoon over?

Premier Rachel Notley was scheduled to be riding in the Stampede parade Friday morning.

This comes one day after a new poll from Mainstreet Technologies suggested Alberta's Wildrose Party would win if a provincial election were held now, although the next vote is not expected for four years.

"The honeymoon may be over for Premier Notley as the realities of an NDP government sink in for Albertans," said Quito Maggi, president of Mainstreet. "Lots of decisions are being made, and while it may pay off in the long run to do all the heavy lifting at once, for now it is leaving a mixed impression."

The poll even suggests that the Progressive Conservative party has regained the lead in Calgary, meaning Notley has a lot of work to do in city — especially since a byelection will be held for the seat vacated by former premier Jim Prentice in Calgary-Foothills.

Prentice won the riding in the May election but resigned immediately on election night after losing the government to the NDP.

The Wildrose Party announced Thursday night during a Stampede event that it will hold a vote on Aug. 15 to pick its candidate in the riding.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said the party will waive its requirement for this byelection that candidates hold a party membership for six months. 

Ballots to be cast later this year

Bob Hawkesworth officially announced Monday that he will seek the NDP nomination in the upcoming Calgary-Foothills byelection. The former MLA and Calgary city councillor says he wants to return to public life.

The byelection must be held by Nov. 5, but no date has been set yet.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says that after the parade, all of the MLAs from Calgary will gather at city hall for a meeting with council.

"Just informally with all of the Calgary MLAs, not just the new ones, so it's all about building good relationships and stampede is a good time to do that," he said.

The mayor is hoping he can raise the awareness of urban issues while federal politicians are in town to flip pancakes and woo voters during Calgary Stampede celebrations.

But first he will take part in the parade again — riding on a very calm horse named Garfield.

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